Philippines, Holy Week and Ramadan: Silsilah dialogue
by Silsilah Dialogue Movement

This year, the holy month for Muslims coincides with the Easter celebrations by Christian Churches. From the island of Mindanao comes a message from a movement engaged in Islamic-Christian dialogue since 1984 in a context marred by violence, but where “real dialogue is also based on respect of differences of faith”.

Zamboanga (AsiaNews) - This year’s Ramadan, the Muslim holy month that began last week, coincides with Christian Easter celebrations. As it does each year, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue issued a message addressed to the Islamic world for this occasion and the feast of Id al Fitr, which marks its it in May, one that refers directly to sharing ‘joys and sorrows".

“[S]haring,” write the president of the Pontifical Council, Card Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, and Secretary Mgr Indunil Kodithuwakku Janakaratne Kankanamalage, “is not limited to material goods. Above all, it involves sharing one another’s joys and sorrows, which are part of every human life.

“There is also a particular joy for believers: the celebration of major religious feasts. When we visit or congratulate our friends and neighbours of other religions for those occasions, we share their joy for the celebration of their feast without having to adopt the religious dimension of the celebrated occasion as our own.

“Our hope, dear Muslim brothers and sisters, is that we continue sharing the joys and sorrows of all our neighbours and friends, because God’s love embraces every person and the entire universe.

The reflection that we publish below expresses the same spirit. It was released by Silsilah, a   movement for Islamic-Christian dialogue, for Ramadan. Founded in 1984 by Fr Sebastiano D'Ambra, PIME missionary, in the delicate context of the Philippine Island of Mindanao where tensions between religious communities and Islamic radicalism are still an open wound, Silsilah has sown words of outreach for almost 40 years, performing acts of encounter between Christians and Muslims.

This year the month of Ramadan coincides in the Philippines with the campaign period of the national and local election and alarming war time in Ukraine and other parts of the world. 

Ramadan is a special time of fasting for a journey of purification with some obligations such as fasting from eating and drinking during day time, prayer and charity. It is indeed a great lesson for all of us to give more time for a journey of purification that in Islam is identified as “Great Jihad” (Inner struggle and purification of the heart). 

Together, as part of the same human family, we are called to answer to the signs of the times that invite us to overcome divisions and conflicts built up along the centuries. Today we are called to respect each other even if we belong to different religions and cultures. 

There is a tendency to build dialogue and peace on the basis of similarities, especially among Christians and Muslims. Yes, we have something in common, but, real dialogue is also based on respect of differences of faith and promotion of our faith with the witness of lives by respecting the faith of others. There are those who try to ignore the differences and try to create confusion in those who do not know well the differences among the two religions and convert members of one religion to another.

It is time for all of us to deepen our faith, understand our identity and love our faith, at the same time to respect the faith of others. Thus, we are called to internalize more the essential part of our faith and be open to dialogue while accepting also the differences. This is the real dialogue that Silsilah promotes. 

As a pioneer dialogue movement in Mindanao and in the Philippines committed to this mission since 1984, we in Silsilah are happy for the many emerging groups and institutions committed to dialogue, harmony and peace. With the increasing need for dialogue, together we promote initiatives of peace together. In this context we continue to build together a Culture of Dialogue based on the four pillars of dialogue: Dialogue with God, Dialogue with the Self, Dialogue with Others and Dialogue with Creation.

For us, this journey of dialogue must be a journey of spirituality that calls us to follow and live our faith. Guided by this spirit we try to invite many people to consider the importance of the Culture of Dialogue that has to reach the level of spirituality in order to reach together a vision of peace. 

We are happy that gradually in many sectors of education and in society the need for spirituality is increasing. With this vision of spiritual journey, we continue to invite all to build the “Human Fraternity”. On this basis we can build a stronger foundation for any effort of peace and initiative for the common good. Indeed, “The peace of the heart is the heart of peace”.

This is our wish for the Muslim Ummah in this time of Ramadan. We also hope that Muslims will stand and raise their voices against those who use Islam for vested interest. This will help to create a better spirit of friendship and trust. We cannot allow terrorism and violence to continue to act in the name of religion. This is always the temptation, even for other religions today. The Catholics in the past have passed through this stage. 

During this time of Ramadan, the initiatives of solidarity between Christians and Muslims in the Philippines and other parts of the world are the many sharing of friendship and solidarity. This is a good sign of hope. 

On our part, as Silsilah Dialogue Movement, we are promoting different initiatives in Mindanao, the Manila area and other groups and institutions.

May the God of peace inspire all of us to see the faces of others as our brothers and sisters. This is possible even if we reaffirm our religious identity and remain committed to our faith. We wish for all to live and witness our faith as Christians, Muslims or followers of other religions and be signs of hope in society today.